A ceremonial first blast was fired July 6, 2012, to initiate the tunneling that will provide access for development of an underground block-caving operation beneath Codelco’s Chuquicamata open-pit that has been mined in northern Chile since 1915. The underground mine will extend mining operations at Chuquicamata for at least another 40 years.
The principal access tunnel to the Chuquicamata underground mine will be 7.5 km long. Development will include five ventilation intake ramps and two exhaust ramps. Horizontal and vertical development will total 121 km.
With production scheduled to begin in 2018, Chuquicamata underground will produce 140,000 mt/d of ore and yield 340,000 mt/y of fine copper and 18,000 mt/y of fine molybdenum. Development is based on reserves of 1.7 billion mt grading 0.7% copper and 502 ppm molybdenum. Along with Codelco’s El Teniente mine, Chuquicamata underground will be one of the world’s largest underground mining operations.